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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Alaska

Alaska is one of those travel destinations where everyone seems to want to go but never quite makes it. It is, after all, separated from the continental United States with many of its regions only accessible by plane. For those who are fortunate enough to arrive in this state, the scenery is spectacular with its mountains, rivers, glaciers, and sea. With so much of its land unspoiled, the local wildlife thrives, adding a delightful aspect to an already thrilling adventure. Road travel is usually reserved for the summer months due to the cold climate, but here are some gorgeous drives to help you begin exploring Alaska.

No. 10 – Anton Larsen Bay Road

Anton Larsen Bay Road Alaska
Flickr user: naql

Starting Location: Kodiak Station, AK
Ending Location: Anton Larsen Bay, AK
Length: 10 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this drive is short, allow ample time to reconnoiter the area just off the road from WWII outpost Fort Greely to the Boreal Bog. Kodiak Island has plenty to do and see, and this route takes travelers right through some of the most attractive spots. Watch ptarmigan and mountain goats from Red River Bridge, and the steep trail up Pyramid Mountain rewards those who finish with magnificent views.

No. 9 – Nome-Council Road

Nome-Council Road Alaska
Flickr user: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith

Starting Location: Nome, AK
Ending Location: Council, AK
Length: 74 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Explore the coastline of the Bering Sea and grasslands of the nearby interior off of this stunning drive. In Safety Sound, the last checkpoint of the Iditarod, grab a bite to eat and take advantage of the area’s superior birdwatching opportunities. The landscape changes dramatically near Council, where trees suddenly appear, but take care when crossing the bridge into town because it is known for its treachery.

No. 8 – Eklutna Lake Scenic Drive

Eklutna Lake Scenic Drive Alaska
Flickr user: Martha de Jong-Lantink

Starting Location: Eklutna Village, AK
Ending Location: Eklutna Lake, AK
Length: 21 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Eklutna Village, about an hour from Anchorage, begins this scenic drive off well with its quaint buildings and deeply entrenched Athabaskan Indian and Russian Orthodox missionary history. From there, the route snakes alongside the Eklutna River to the glacial lake of the same name. In Chugach State Park, the Twin Peaks are visible in the distance and bikers are welcome on a large portion of the Mt. Eklutna Trail.

No. 7 – Skilak Lake

Skilak Lake Alaska
Flickr user: dcsl

Starting Location: Kenai, AK
Ending Location: Seward, AK
Length: 107 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Much of this route is gravel, and that means travelers here won’t have to deal with traffic or search out places to park. Along the Kenai Peninsula, the glaciers and lakes provide superb views and scores of photo opportunities. Bear Mountain Trail is a favorite among hikers due its proximity to prime fishing spots and plentiful wildlife.

No. 6 – Bob Blodgett Highway

Bob Blodgett Highway Alaska
Flickr user: Joseph

Starting Location: Nome, AK
Ending Location: Teller, AK
Length: 71 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

An ideal route to pass a day, the way from Nome to Teller provides plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities from migratory seabirds to moose. Make sure to pack enough provisions to last two hours without stopping, but likely longer to savor the sights, because civilization isn’t on the itinerary. Once in Teller, see a different side of life in this small Eskimo village of about 300 people.

No. 5 – Chiniak Highway

Chiniak Highway Alaska
Flickr user: naql

Starting Location: Chiniak, AK
Ending Location: Kodiak, AK
Length: 40 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Although explorers along this route may not encounter many other people, they can expect to encounter breathtaking scenery in a virtually untouched landscape. Anglers will find the salmon bountiful in Russian Creek, Salonie Creek, and the American River. WWII history enthusiasts can also explore the myriad of near-forgotten batteries and airstrips in the region.

No. 4 – Glenn Highway

Glenn Highway Alaska
Flickr user: fineplan

Starting Location: Anchorage, AK
Ending Location: Glacier View, AK
Length: 109 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Winding along the Matanuska River all the way from Anchorage to Matanuska Glacier, this route is one full of stunning views at every turn. With a mix of coastal and interior mountains, and even some agricultural flats around Palmer, the terrain is ever-changing. Once at the drive’s end, be sure to photograph the icy wonderland, explore the nearby hiking opportunities, or give kayaking the river a try.

No. 3 – Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive

Hatcher Pass Scenic Drive Alaska
Flickr user: Cecil Sanders

Starting Location: Willow, AK
Ending Location: Palmer, AK
Length: 51 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive through the Talkeetna Mountains has the potential to enchant virtually any traveler with its varied recreational activities. A popular destination for skiing or hiking in the alpine tundra, outdoorsy or athletic types can feel right at home. At Independence Mine Historical State Park, visitors can learn about the gold mining history in the area or have a picnic while watching paragliders take sail from high ground.

No. 2 – George Parks Highway

George Parks Highway Alaska
Flickr user: Frank Monaldo

Starting Location: Fairbanks, AK
Ending Location: Wasilla, AK
Length: 316 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

Full of spectacular scenes composed of large rivers, mountains, and glaciers, this drive that begins just below the Arctic Circle draws seekers of adventure from all over the globe. Consider testing your mettle by whitewater rafting the Nenana or Tenana Rivers. The six-million-acre Denali National Park – larger than the state of Massachusetts – offers even more opportunities to blaze trails and make memorable discoveries.

No. 1 – Seward Highway

Seward Highway Alaska
Flickr user: Pat Henson

Starting Location: Anchorage, AK
Ending Location: Seward, AK
Length: 127 miles
Best Season to Drive: Summer
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive through fjords and glaciers may only be possible in the summer months, but it is one those in the area won’t want to miss. Begin by beefing up on Alaska history at the Anchorage Museum, which plays host to the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, the Imaginarium Discovery Center, and a state-of-the-art planetarium. Stop to explore more than 50 glaciers in Chugach State Park, while the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward gives visitors the opportunity to see creatures like octopi and sea lions up close.

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